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DCS and The First Amendment

Industry Served

Congratulations to The Tennessean for winning first place and receiving a First Amendment Award at the Associated Press Media Editors’ Journalism Excellence Awards. The honors were given for the publication's ongoing coverage of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and the department’s handling of cases involving children who died or nearly died. Waller represents the state-wide coalition of media organizations that prevailed in obtaining access to child fatality records held by DCS.

A state-wide coalition of a dozen media organizations filed a lawsuit in December 2012 against the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services after the agency denied requests made under the state’s public records act for details about hundreds of children who suffered a fatality or near fatality after the state’s involvement. With Waller’s assistance,  The Tennessean and other media overcame the department’s refusal to produce any records relating to these events.  The state-wide media coalition is the broadest ever assembled in the state of Tennessee for litigation. 

The coalition includes:

  • The Tennessean
  • Associated Press
  • Chattanooga Times Free Press
  • Knoxville News Sentinel
  • The Commercial Appeal
  • WSMV-TV
  • WBIR-TV
  • WRKN-TV
  • WREG-TV
  • Tennessee Press Association
  • Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
  • Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters

 

DCS argued that the sensitive records regarding child fatalities require that the media coalition’s requests be rejected.  Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy, however, granted access to substantial amounts of information which DCS had refused to produce. 
 

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